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DTN - Disruption Tolerant Networking

Abbreviated as DTN, Disruption Tolerant Networking is a networking architecture that is designed to provide communications in the most unstable and stressed environments, where the network would normally be subject to frequent and long lasting disruptions and high bit error rates that could severely degrade normal communications. It is an experimental protocol developed by the Delay & Disruption Tolerant Networking Research Group, which operates under the Internet Research Task Force.

A Different Approach to TCP/IP

DTN works using different kind of approach than TCP/IP for packet delivery that is more resilient to disruption than TCP/IP. DTN is based on a new experimental protocol called the Bundle Protocol (RFC 5050). The Bundle Protocol (BP) sits at the application layer of some number of constituent internets, forming a store-and-forward overlay network. BP operates as an overlay protocol that links together multiple subnets (such as Ethernet-based LANs) into a single network.


The basic idea behind DTN network is that endpoints aren't always continuously connected. In order to facilitate data transfer, DTN uses a store-and-forward approach across routers that is more disruption-tolerant than TCP/IP. However, the DTN approach doesn't necessarily mean that all DTN routers on a network would require large storage capacity in order to maintain end-to-end data integrity.

Disruption Tolerant Networks are frequently used in disaster relief missions, peace-keeping missions, and in vehicular networks. Most recently NASA has tested DTN technology for spacecraft communications.

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